More and more people moved away from Amsterdam during the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic nudged many people in Amsterdam to move out of the city, especially now that working from home is the norm. After the Randstad, the east and north of the country are popular, where house prices are rising rapidly. Newspaper Het Parool investigated why people decided to leave the capital.
"Corona has accelerated our move," says Sandra Smits (37), now a former Amsterdam resident, who recently settled with her husband Jeroen Smits (37) and their son in the municipality of Bronckhorst in Gelderland.
Like so many other Amsterdammers, Jeroen and Sandra have been working from home for almost a year. They have heard from their employer that working from home will also be possible in the future. "When we heard that, we were able to think more concretely about a house, with a garden, further outside of Amsterdam," says Sandra Smits. At first, they looked in the region, but prices have also risen sharply there. "We decided to increase our search radius to a radius of 120 kilometers from Amsterdam."
Not only working from home played a role in their decision, the peace and space away from the city are also reasons to move. Corona has speeded up the process.
Village in Zeeland
Would this apply to more Amsterdammers? In the first months of the pandemic, experts expressed the expectation that the large, densely populated city would be less attractive due to the pandemic. Keeping your distance is difficult. Going to bars or clubs became impossible. Population figures show that the migration from the city is indeed greater than ever, but is this due to corona, or is there a longer trend?
Statistics Netherlands (CBS) established that the population of Amsterdam and the surrounding area decreased since April 2020, when the country went into the first lockdown. The Veluwe, Drenthe, Groningen and also the Achterhoek welcomed more people. According to Statistics Netherlands, corona enables Dutch people to live further from their work, but no research has been done on this. The migration from Amsterdam has been going on for some time. Since 2014 it had been increasing every year.
The Dutch Association of Estate Agents (NVM) reported in January that 10 percent of home buyers from the Randstad opt for a home far away. Lana Gerssen is on the board of the NVM and is a broker in the Betuwe, province of Gelderland. She receives many house hunters from the Randstad and Amsterdam and regularly hears that corona plays a role in their choice to move. "Because they work from home so much, they are more aware of how they live." It is striking that Amsterdammers used to mainly look for a home in their own region, think of Amstelveen, Haarlem, Zaanstad, and Castricum. Prices there have now risen sharply, so they are looking further. "In the east and north of the country, the population has increased considerably," says Gerssen. "People are going to push their boundaries because of corona."
Anton Harfst (61) and his partner Laurien van den Hoven (55), former residents of south Amsterdam, moved to Zeeland in times of Covid-19. The pandemic gave them the decisive push, says Harfst. "It was emotionally difficult for us to leave the city."
Harfst and Van den Hoven ran their photography company from Amsterdam for many years. They gave workshops there and in the city center, they made photography walks with participants. Amsterdam is centrally located enough to receive people from all over the Netherlands.
The city, which for years fit like an old coat, has not pleased them lately. The increasing crowds, in particular, caused annoyance. The walks in the city center were regularly disturbed by large groups. "During the corona time, the streets remained busy and we found it difficult to keep our distance," says Harfst.
The workshops have been online since the corona outbreak and that is going fine, so there is no reason for Harfst and Van den Hoven to stay in Amsterdam. They have been living in the village of Kloosterzande since December.
Work is, of course, not the only reason to live in Amsterdam; with all its amenities, the city has a lot more to offer, doesn't it? "That's right," says Harfst. "I loved going to the Albert Cuyp. But otherwise, we were already less part of the urban life. Because of the crowds or a lack of interest. Many restaurants focus mainly on expats."
Jan Willem Duyvendak, professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam, has researched the "feeling of home" and states that this has changed by covid. "Home has been given a different function, it is the place where we live and work. Many people realize that it is not ideal to all be at home all the time." The city's benefits have been diminished by corona, Duyvendak says. Cinemas and cafes are closed and cities have become hotbeds of viruses. It makes sense that city dwellers consider moving to a place with more space and greenery. "But I do wonder if they will not regret it. At a certain point, the city is no longer a hotspot, and cafes will open again. And will we continue to work from home after this pandemic?"
Duyvendak thinks that corona is not an independent reason to move for Amsterdammers but mainly gives the final push. "The city's appeal has been lessened temporarily, and the reasons for leaving Amsterdam are stronger, such as the crowds, unaffordability, and lack of space. The virus has especially accelerated people who were already considering a move."
Lots of equity in your pocket
This trend, whether temporary or not, has major consequences for the city and the rest of the Netherlands. The population of Amsterdam is hardly growing anymore, which means that house prices are rising less quickly for the first time in a long time. Now it is the turn of the rest of the country. Amsterdammers, with their equity in their pocket, are able to significantly outbid others in Gelderland, Groningen, and other provinces. "I regularly have to call home seekers from the region to tell them that they have been wiped out by someone from the Randstad," says real estate agent Lana Gerssen. "They then have to live with their parents even longer."
Paul Guldemond (40), former D66 councilor in Amsterdam, moved to Zwolle in August. He later heard that the neighbor across the street was also interested in his new home. "He was disappointed that he lost out to Amsterdammers." Guldemond has returned with his wife and two children to his roots in Overijssel, a choice they had already made before corona. The fact that working from home has become the norm during the pandemic is a nice extra for him: Guldemond can continue to work in The Hague, at the Ministry of the Interior. "I actually expected that I would quickly start looking for a job in Zwolle, but that is no longer necessary. It is expected that we will not have to come to the ministry that often, even after corona."
Stroll along the horses
Migration from the Randstad is also noticeable in the Achterhoek, an area in Gelderland, says Sandra Smits. "We hear here that the number of registrations has increased. I get it; people in the Achterhoek get more value for their money."
The Smits have already found their niche in the new, rural environment. Their daily walk to work has been replaced by a stroll along the horses, much to the delight of their son. "It is great here. And at the same time, it is nice to know that we will still be in Amsterdam regularly."